Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Life as a Singer Part One

Ever since I can remember, I've loved music. I wrote a couple of songs at age eight that are thoroughly embarrassing, and I've written probably 10 or 12 notebooks full of songs and poems since then. And I've always been a singer. I would sing for pretty much anyone that would listen. My family tolerated it, to put it nicely. Especially when I was a cute four and five year old. But once I got into my tweens and teens, they (justifiably) wanted me to put a sock in it. This is around the time I started singing at school. No, not in choir or glee club or anything legit like that. I mean singing at break by the wooden benches and in the locker room after  P.E., I was underground, hunty. The problem with this underground approach is that I was never properly trained on how to sing.

This brings us to a couple of years ago, when I decided I should learn how to actually sing. I took a class at Fresno City College for beginners, and failed miserably. At least, in my opinion. The teacher, an accomplished opera singer, was teaching us how to sing the correct way. Like, when you breathe deeply and stuff. It was all foreign to me. I got through the class, but only because I completed the assignments, not because my voice improved at all. The realization that you've been incorrectly doing the thing you love to do is a hard pill to swallow.

So, I asked my teacher for private lessons, which she readily agreed to provide. She's patient and kind, but honest and will tell me to shake off my nerves and just sing! But, I keep running into the same wall over and over again. Singing the right way is f*cking difficult. I feel like my voice is a crooked tree that now, after years of growing the wrong way, has to be pulled and yanked upright. Everything I knew about singing is wrong. And to correct it, I have to start from scratch.

Scratch, in my case, is head voice. The voice that opera singers use, you may know it as falsetto. In my former life as an underground singer, I hardly ever used my head voice. I was all chest voice, the voice we normally speak with. So this whole head voice thing is completely new to me. I fumble, I stumble, I sound weak and frail most of the time, and I hate it. But I know, just like anything else, I have to practice to get my head voice to be stronger and fuller and more vibrant. It's not going to do it by itself.

What happens when I sing in head voice is not pretty. Not that it doesn't sound ok, because in all honesty, it's not terrible. I know this. But what happens in my head is not pretty. My confidence plummets. My heart sinks. My stomach goes into knots. I'm embarrassed that I can't nail a song on the first or second try. I hate that my head voice is so weak. And then, of course, because I'm thinking this way, it gets weaker. So, I have to force myself to stop listening to my own voice when I sing. I have to make myself pretend like it's the best thing in the world and I'm the best. That way, at least, I can get through the song without beating myself up.

I'm now at peace with the fact that I need my head voice in order to be a real singer. I have a long, long, long way to go. But I thought I would just share this journey I'm on with you all. Is there something you've been wanting to try? I say, go for it. Whatever it is, it's gotta be easier than trying to sing in head voice. Just kidding ...

Tweet me!